When was the last time you saw a prequel and thought it was in any way worth the effort? Wolverine certainly doesn’t fit that bill. Everything that a prequel shouldn’t be is exemplified by that movie. The polar opposite of that entry would be X-Men First Class. I know that’s hard to believe, but everything in First Class seems to work in a way that Wolverine wishes it would have. I would say this is the finest Marvel film not produced under their Marvel Studios banner to date. It is easily on par with X2, and that film stands as one of the best comic adaptations, sequels, and all around films rolled into one that I can think of off the top of my head.
Vaughn and company have made a bold move by making a prequel sans any of the original cast (Save for some crowd-pleasing cameos that I will not spoil for you) and focusing on second-tier mutants with the majority of the limelight being given to Xavier and Magneto in their most formative years. McAvoy proves that he deserves more attention with his depiction of Xavier, which is fun and focused in a way that you wouldn’t expect. His ability to mimic the Kirbian depiction of Xavier with his arched eyebrow and pointed stare is a subtle genius that really adds to showing where the roots of this story began. Fassbender is amazing as always, and makes Erik Lensherr into a character who by all rights is the true hero of the movie. He has been wronged and he goes out into the world seeking his own brand of justice. His feelings on mutant/human relations are all but validated by the end of the runtime and it is hard not to sympathize with him because Fassbender’s portrayal of his conflicted nature has all the gravitas that the the character deserves.
While some will take issue with the sixties setting I thought it worked wonderfully, as it gave the Hellfire Club, such as it was, a thematic reason for existing. Places like that seem locked into the lore of the swinging sixties. Playing against the backdrop of the cold war gave possibilities that would not otherwise have been available, and while the timeline might not line up with the original films in perfect harmony it is easy enough to blur the lines and let things play out. It’s easily one of the more inventive and expirimental ideas in a Marvel adaptation to date.
Granted there are some things that don’t work and most of them are January Jones and her bland vacuum that she calls acting. Emma Frost is one of the more interesting characters in X-Men lore and they couldn’t even manage to find someone who could fake a British accent. At no point did I ever really feel she had the seductive energy that the character embodies and I take that as the biggest misfire of the film. Other problems are largely there so that the focus can remain on Erik and Charles. Darwin, who is an interesting character in the comics when written properly, is essentially wasted here and I believe mainly thrown in the mix in an attempt to diversify the group. Sebastian Shaw’s lackeys, Azazel and Riptide really don’t have much to do at all, though I suspect that Azazel will get his due in the sequels when his interactions with Mystique are given a chance to bear fruit.
Overall it easily surpasses X3, Wolverine, and the original film in quality and matches that of X2. I hope that the sequel gets put into development straight away. Maybe move the action into the disco era so I can get some mutha-fuckin’ Dazzler on the big screen. Yeah. That’s right. Dazzler. That’s what the franchise needs damnit.
Addendum: I have a major crush on Jennifer Lawrence. None of you may touch her. She is mine. *swoon*